Henry VII.—The Story of a Make-Believe Prince
WITH Henry Tudor a new race of kings began to reign in England.
For more than three hundred years the kings of England had been Plantagenets. Henry II. was the first of the Plantagenets, and he took his name from Geoffrey of Anjou who used to wear a piece of planta genista in his cap. With Richard III. the last of the Plantagenets died, for Henry VII., though a Plantagenet on his mother's side, was a Tudor on his father's side, and it was from his family that Henry took his name.
The Tudors were Welsh and claimed to be descended from the ancient British princes who, you remember, were driven into Wales when the Saxons took possession of England.
The Battle of Bosworth Field was the last of the Wars of the Roses. Henry Tudor, who was the Red Rose Prince, married Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV. and sister of the little princes who were murdered in the Tower. She was the White Rose Princess, but by marrying Henry she became the Red Rose Queen, and the differences between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, between the Red Rose and the White, ought to have been quite forgotten.
But Henry himself could not entirely forget these quarrels which had been so bitter. There were many people in England who still belonged to the White Rose party. Although they had hated Richard they were not pleased to see a Red Rose king upon the throne. So Henry VII. was hardly crowned before rebellions against him began.
Soon after Henry VII. was crowned, a handsome boy and a priest landed in Dublin. This boy called himself the Earl of Warwick. He was, he said, the son of that Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV., who was murdered in the Tower by being drowned in a cask of wine. The priest, he said, was his tutor. Ever since the death of his father, the Earl of Warwick had been kept a prisoner. But now, he said, he had escaped in some wonderful manner.
The simple Irish people believed this story. They knew nothing of Henry and had no reason for either hating or loving him. But they did love the House of York, for the Earl of Warwick's grandfather had at one time governed Ireland in the name of the King, and, having governed well, the people remembered and loved him.
So now they welcomed this young prince with great joy. Edward, Earl of Warwick, as he called himself, was gay and young and handsome, and he gained the love of the Irish so much that they resolved to crown him King.
This was done with great rejoicing in Dublin. But they had no crown, so the priest took the golden crown from the statue of the Virgin Mary which was in the church, and put it upon the boy's head. Then, wearing this crown and dressed in beautiful robes, the new King was carried through the streets on the shoulders of a great strong Irish chieftain, while the people shouted, "Long live King Edward VI.!"
Having been crowned in Ireland, "Edward VI." thought he would next conquer England. So he sailed across the Irish Sea and landed in England with a small army of wild Irishmen and Germans.
Meanwhile Henry VII. had heard of these doings in Ireland and had not been idle. He brought the real Earl of Warwick out of the Tower where he had been kept prisoner ever since he had been quite a tiny boy. Dressed in fine clothes and riding upon a splendid horse, the real earl was slowly led through the streets of London. From the Tower to St. Paul's and back again by another way, he was led so that all the people might see him.
The young earl had spent all his life in prison. It must have been a wonderful thing for him to come out into the open streets, to see the blue sky and the houses and the trees, the great procession of soldiers and knights in glittering armour and gorgeous clothes, and the people, men, women, and children, crowding in the streets, all eager to see him. And, having been led out, having seen for once all the life and stir of the great city, the poor young prince was taken back again to his dull, quiet prison, while the King marched with his army to fight the pretended earl.
The two armies met at a place called Stoke. Very few English had joined the pretender, for they were quite sure that the earl whom they had seen riding through the streets of London was the real earl and that this one was only a make-believe. The pretender's soldiers were soon defeated, for most of them were wild Irishmen badly armed; and wearing no armour, they were no match for Henry's well-armed and well-trained soldiers.
The pretender was taken prisoner, and so was the priest who was with him. They confessed that the prince was no prince at all, but a boy called Lambert Simnel, the son of a baker. The priest who was a Yorkist, or White Rose man, hated Henry, and finding that the boy Lambert was clever as well as handsome, he taught him how to behave as a prince ought. He told him stories of the Duke of Clarence and of Richard III. so that he might pretend to be what he was not.
Henry did not kill Lambert Simnel as many kings who reigned before him would have done. Instead he gave him a punishment, which, had Lambert indeed been a prince, would have been a very dreadful one. He was sent into the King's kitchen to be a scullery boy and to help the cooks.
This boy, who had worn a crown and royal robes, who had been carried through the streets shoulder high while the people cheered him as their King, was a few days later turned into a kitchen drudge, to be ordered about by the cooks and set to do the meanest kinds of work.
But Lambert Simnel behaved himself so well that the King soon took him out of the kitchen and made him a kind of page. He had then to look after the King's falcons.
All great people kept falcons in those days. They were used for hunting, and were trained to fly up in the air to catch and kill other birds.
A great deal of time and money was spent on falcons. They had hoods of velvet and jewels, and gold and silver chains. Lambert must have found his new work much more pleasant than helping the cooks in the hot kitchens.
The priest who had taught Lambert Simnel was allowed to go free, but some of the nobles who had helped him were beheaded, and others were made to pay large sums of money.